We Have No Choice But To Invade Gelato Mio

Yup, I just can’t let it go.

My father always told me, “Son, if you’re gonna do the time, you might as well do the crime.”  So, in the interest of following my father’s advice, I offer the following paragraph (all of which is sarcastic, for fuck’s sake).

I want blood.  No apology from Andy Drennen will ever be sufficient.  There can be no forgiveness.  I don’t want his reputation, I want his head on a pike.  We have no choice but to assemble every atheist within shouting distance and arm them to the teeth before marching into Gelato Mio in an orgy of blood, our automatic weapons ejaculating bullets in every direction, and pausing only to replace our clips and not stopping until Andy and his restaurant are reduced to their component atoms.  We need to find a tank, a healer, and three DPS and we need to assault Gelato fortress and take all their purples.

So there’s that.  Since it seems I need to be as absolutely clear as possible: I DO NOT BELIEVE ANY OF THIS!  But you’d never know it from reading the comments on this across the internet.  Holy crap, the things you can be accused of for thinking a guy’s apology was empty and providing the reasons you have for believing that.

Now, here’s where we really stand.  In my last post I made essentially three points.

1.  Our movement has grown to the point where anti-atheist bigotry now has consequences.  I like this.

2.  I don’t accept Andy’s apology.

3.  I said what it would take to convince me of Andy’s sincerity: a charitable donation.

Yet people came unglued, acting as though I (and PZ, and Adam Lee, and any of the number of other atheists who found his apology to be empty) want to see this man and his family begging for table scraps for the rest of their lives.  So let’s clarify.

Andy Drennen hung up a bigoted sign in his restaurant and got negative online reviews from the people he treated as second-class citizens.  Who is to blame for this, Andy or the atheist movement?  If you do bad things, you get bad reviews.  And yet people act as though we’re dumping termites on his doorway.  What else would be appropriate here?  Bad reviews seem to be a perfectly reasonable reaction and I don’t feel the least bit sorry that it happened.   Should we not have raised hell?  Should we have shrugged our shoulders and said “Huh, I guess we’re just a minority.”  No, we should speak out, which is precisely what we did.  Am I calling for a nuclear strike on his business?  No.  But I don’t mind that we left him negative reviews (and, if his apology is sincere and he really thinks he was in the wrong, then Andy can’t be shocked either).  My point is, stop acting like anybody wants to see this man in a casket over this.  Am I happy to see that bigotry is no longer without consequence as our numbers increase?  Yes.  Do I want to see Andy Drennen drowned in a vat of ice cream?  No.

So what do I want?  I don’t want squat from Andy.  It is Andy who says he’s trying to convince us of his sincerity and I explained why I was unconvinced.  Nobody in the gaggle of comments on yesterday’s post addressed the reasons for why I thought this.  I had a few people accuse me of trying to be a mind-reader.  I’m not a mind-reader, but I see some things (let’s call them “evidence”) that lead me to believe his apology is a means to save his ass, not a genuine expression of remorse.  It was an “I’m sorry, but…” that professed sorrow, but read like a guy more concerned with selling Gelato than regret for contributing to a culture of discrimination.

The diplomats among us always hang on the idea that we firebrands are not changing anybody’s mind (as if that were our only goal and as if we don’t change people’s minds).  Well, here I want to change Andy’s mind, not about what he can get away with, but about whether or not it’s ok to discriminate against us.  It seems like others want to let him off the hook without that realization (or they’re convinced he’s made that realization, which I’ll address shortly) because it will somehow convince Christians that we, the ones leading people directly into hell, are somehow not the bad guys.  I think that’s insane.

Look at his apology.  Consider for a moment that, by Andy’s own admission, he had agreed to give Skepticon attendees a 10% discount before the conference even began.  Why did he do this?  To drive business.  It was a good business decision made at a time when he had nothing to be sorry for because the 10% sale would make him more money.

Now, in his apology, he tells us that he can think of no better way to display just how sorry he is than by doing the exact same thing he did before his transgression.  Only this time it’s not to drive business, it’s as a sacrifice born of remorse.  In one case it’s a boon, in another it’s penance.  Who on earth buys that story?  It’s not about being nice, it’s about not being gullible.

I could give a damn less what Andy does.  I’m not buying his food because I dislike the man and I don’t want my money landing in a collection plate, and I suspect people with the same standards will do likewise.  This is not our fault, it’s his.  However, if he wants to convince me he really means what he says, I told him what he could do: donate 10% of his gross income over a month to a secular charity.  The idea to part with his gross income was not mine, it was his (see the discount he is willing to give).  The 10% was also his idea, not mine, so let’s not pretend this number is arbitrary or something he cannot afford, especially if he’s getting our business back (atheist business minus 10% is better than atheist business minus 100%, Andy knows this, which is why he’s making that offer).  I’m just asking that he do it in a way that could make a difference by giving that 10% to a group who can do some good with it rather than just having it evaporate into a business-saving discount and to do it over a month so the donation is enough to have an impact.  His actions made the world a shittier place.  If he wants to make it right, I think his concern should be with making the world a better place, not with massaging his bottom line.  I’m taking him at his word, I just suspect his word isn’t worth a damn. So, again, let’s not imagine that nothing he can do would ever be good enough to convince me.  I’m just saying that his half-assed effort so far leaves me unmoved.

Like I said before, I’m happy to have my mind changed here.  However, I see his first not-pology and then I see him begging for a way he can move us with his contrition and the best he can come up with is to treat us the same way he was treating us before the event, and my desire to not be duped keeps me from thinking he really gives the first shit about equality.  That keeps me from accepting his apology.

And the thing is, I don’t care if he convinces me.  I think he’s an asshole, and a dishonest one at that.  But if he wants to convince me otherwise, if he wants to convince us like he says he does, this is how he could do it as far as I’m concerned.  As far as I can see right now, he’s treating us like suckers.  I don’t appreciate it.

And lastly, for those of you who think I lack empathy, you can piss right off.  I’m not asking the man be destroyed, I’m telling him what he can do to satisfy the criteria he says he wants to satisfy (atheists accepting his apology and a personal sacrifice he says he’s willing to make, but that he hasn’t made in lieu of making a business decision).  I do this because I have empathy for every atheist who lives in secret because of the effects people like Andy have on society.  I have an intense desire to make the world a better place because I have empathy.  It’s why I do what I do.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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